Strangulation of Adult & Pediatric Patients

As a trauma nurse that is cross-trained with a master of forensic science degree, I spend a lot of time thinking about recognition & assessment of strangulation patients. •

Strangulation and Domestic Violence

Strangulation has been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence. It is one of the best predictors for subsequent homicide. Prior strangulation increases the odds of strangulation homicide by more than seven times. For perpetrators, strangulation is the ultimate form of power and control. However, because there are often no visible injuries, patients, physicians, and law enforcement often minimize the possible health consequences of reported strangulation.

Pathophysiology

The vasculature of the neck is relatively unprotected and vulnerable to injury and vascular occlusion. The application of 4.4 pounds of pressure to the jugular veins causes venous outflow obstruction from the brain and thus stagnant hypoxia. Eleven pounds of pressure to the carotid arteries can cause loss of consciousness in approximately 10 seconds. Compression of the trachea requires significantly more force: 33 pounds of pressure for occlusion and 35 pounds to fracture tracheal cartilage.

Strangulation can be fatal in as little as four to five minutes. Mechanisms in addition to hypoxia due to vascular occlusion have been proposed. Pressure on the carotid body may cause bradycardia and subsequent cardiac arrest. Delayed mortality may be caused by carotid artery dissection, aspiration, postobstructive pulmonary edema, acute respiratory distress syndrome, or tracheal injury.

📓: ACEP Now, Heather V. Rozzi, MD, FACEP; and Ralph Riviello, MD, MS/April 2019

About the Author
I am an experienced trauma nurse who has seen a lot of super tragic and gnarly things. On the flip side, I’ve have seen and done a lot of amazing things in my 20 years of nursing as well. I’ve saved lives for a living and I have had the privilege and the honor of holding patients hands as they take their last breath. I have seen SO many patients and their loved ones in their most fragile moments. I am proud of my profession, and for the fact that I have fought so valiantly to be here. Sometimes nurses get burnt out, but I have been blessed to be at the bedside all of my career. I have earned multiple degrees and certifications in nursing. I am the nurse you want at your bedside when you’re critically injured and dying. I put my blood, sweat and tears into being clinically astute & relevant. This blog is to help new nurses, nursing students, paramedics, experienced nurses, or whomever comes across my blogs path and think it is intriguing, educational or inspiring to them. In this career, we are all here to share and help one another grow. I believe in building others up, so they can reach the next level, whatever their goal may be. Carpe Diem & ENJOY!

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